Political Augustinianism

Political Augustinianism: Modern Interpretations of Augustine's Political Thought

Michael J. S. Bruno
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Political Augustinianism
    Book Description:

    Alongside Saint Thomas Aquinas, the thought of Saint Augustine stands as one of the central fountainheads of not only theology but Western social and political theory. In the twentieth century especially, Augustine has been pivotal to the development of modern and contemporary political and social construction. Schools of ‘Augustinianism’ proliferated, especially in French, German, and English, and debated critical questions around the relationship of the church and state, war, justice, ethics, virtue, and the life of citizenship, interpreted through a lens provided by Augustine. Political Augustinianism examines these modern political readings of Augustine, providing an extensive account of the pivotal French, British, and American strands of interpretation. Fr. Michael J. S. Bruno guides the reader through these modern strands of interpretation, examines their historical, theological, and socio-political context, and discusses the hermeneutical underpinnings of the modern discussion of Augustine’s social and political thought.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8758-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreward
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Robert Dodaro

    “Political Augustinianism,” the subject of the present volume by Father Michael Bruno, involves a chronological, analytical and comparative reading of twenty-five scholars whose writings span the period from the beginning of the twentieth century until today and who have treated Augustine’s political theology and ethics along with its relevance in the modern world. No treatment of this question has ever covered the breadth and provided the detailed analysis of the various positions assumed by these authors as has this effort by Michael Bruno. He provides a summary of the important theological and ethical considerations that each of these scholars incorporates...

  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Augustine’s consideration of faith, politics, and society has largely been rendered synonymous with his workDe Civitate Dei. This work, written at the beginning of the fifth century c.e., is among the most theologically and historically influential works in the history of Christianity. However, this identification has led to an often generic reduction of Augustine’s social and political thought to what is often called the theory of “two cities.” This simplified notion attributed to Augustine presents an obfuscation of the true theological foundations of Augustine’s insight, and is typically summarized as a patristic antecedent of modern conceptions of Church and...

  7. 1 French Interpretations of Augustine’s Social and Political Thought
    (pp. 15-62)

    The twentieth century was marked by two World Wars, a Cold War, economic depression, decolonization of over half the globe, social and political upheaval, and new challenges posed by new technologies, not the least of which was the development of nuclear weaponry. From this tremendous amount of turbulence, and in light of unparalleled human bloodshed, there arose varied responses based upon the application of Augustine’s social and political principles. While at times unnoticed, we must remember that a tremendous amount was written by twentieth century thinkers who sought wisdom and guidance for their troubled historical contexts from the Bishop of...

  8. 2 From Realism to Justice Ethics The Early Anglo–American Reception of the “Political Augustinian” Discussion
    (pp. 63-118)

    Having discussed the emergence of Augustine’s political and social thought in the French-speaking world, especially the popularity of the theory ofl’augustinisme politique, the first major American interpreters took up the question in a similar context but utilized different methods. Largely influenced by the aftermath of World War II and the Cold War, the discussion of “political Augustinianism” took on an increased urgency, as important questions were asked about the structure and nature of human society, the rights and responsibilities of the state, and the need to restrain man’s capacity for evil even with force. As a result, the initial...

  9. 3 Disputing the Saeculum Robert Markus, John Milbank, and Contemporary Augustinian Interpretations
    (pp. 119-170)

    Most notably with the work of Robert Markus and his “secularist” school of Augustinian interpretation, numerous theologians and philosophers have emerged to debate the nature of Augustine’s political vision, and to apply his principles to our contemporary social and political context. Markus’s project has also inspired a number of critics, who have sought to redirect Augustinian interpretation from his approach. Chief among these critics is John Milbank and the Radical Orthodoxy movement. In the present chapter, I shall lay out, as synthetically as possible, the major interpretations of contemporary Augustinian scholarship, especially the contributions of influential thinkers such as Joseph...

  10. 4 Recovering Augustine’s Vision of Public Life and Virtue The Debate Entering the 21st Century
    (pp. 171-224)

    In the last chapter, we observed the post-Niebuhrian response provided by numerous authors, most especially Robert Markus and John Milbank. As we have already noted, these authors would themselves lead to further commentary and efforts at interpreting Augustine’s political and social ideas. However, as the debate neared the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century, a theological shift occurred. A new hermeneutical interest emerged in the theological context and influences that shaped Augustine’s vision. With schools of interpretation emerging and presuppositions varying widely, this chapter marks the next generation of interpretation, working in the late-twentieth century into...

  11. 5 Interpreting Augustine’s Political and Social Thought Hermeneutical Issues and Contemporary Applications
    (pp. 225-306)

    In October of 1988, a roundtable discussion was held on the issue of contemporary Augustinian interpretation. In my opinion, this meeting was second in importance for our discussion only to the groundbreaking 1954 Augustinian Congress held in Paris. At this meeting, a number of contemporary authors involved in this discussion met at The Union Club in New York City, namely Robert Markus, Ernest Fortin, Elizabeth Clark, Jean Bethke Elshtain, James Schall, Eugene TeSelle, Graham Walker, and Richard John Neuhaus. They debated over the course of two days on various elements of Augustine’s thought, including love, friendship, his Neoplatonic influences, the...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 307-312)

    It is has been the goal of this study to survey comprehensively the interpretations of Augustine’s social and political thought, examine the related hermeneutical questions involved, and connect Augustine’s vision with the contemporary situation facing the Christian citizen and politician. It is apparent throughout this study that the socio-political lens in which Augustine’s work has been viewed after Arquillière remains problematic. This hermeneutic, as we have discussed, has isolated certain elements of Augustine’s corpus to characterize his thought. While often preferred in the academy, it misrepresents the theological nature of Augustine’s thought and the meaning behind his two cities. It...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 313-332)
  14. Index
    (pp. 333-347)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 348-348)